“I love your show! But how is it that I am a 9-year-old girl and I am not afraid of bats and you are? Bats are great things.”
Bear Grylls, host of Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild television series, outraged bat conservationists last spring by cheerfully killing bats with a club after throwing a flaming torch into a bat cave to drive them outside. The episode was entitled “Bat Tennis,” and video clips were posted around the Internet.
Among the most upset were third-grade students who had been learning about bats from their teacher, Laura Wright, at Eanes Elementary School in Austin, Texas, hometown of Bat Conservation International. The youngsters decided to do something about it.
“I am very disappointed with that video. … My question is: Why, why why? I think you should come to Austin and meet a real bat that is not being swatted and killed. I still can’t believe you did that.”
The students met at Ms. Wright’s house and BCI staffers dropped by to display Zoey, BCI’s celebrity fruit bat. “Our little community really came together that evening,” the teacher reports. The children wrote personal letters to Grylls, inviting him to visit Austin to learn about bats.
“I hear you don’t like bats. I think you might want to come to Eanes Elementary. We’re experts on them. I met one once and they’re actually really cute.”
The grade-school effort won the endorsement of Texas Governor Rick Perry, State Senator Kirk Watson, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Westlake Mayor Dave Claunch and BCI Executive Director Nina Fascione. All of them wrote letters formally inviting Grylls to Austin.
Ms. Wright gathered up all the letters from the kids and officials and sent them off to urge Bear Grylls to come to Austin for a little bat education.
“I really want you to come and visit our school so we can teach you about bats. Bats are nice creatures and good for our environment. They sleep during the day and go out at night. They are cute and not scary.”
The response: The class received an autographed photo of Bear Grylls. But they’re not giving up. A petition drive is being planned.
“Please consider this cause. Think about the bats! Do it for the children!”